Today we’ll take a closer look at Spectris plc (LON:SXS) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it’s important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you’ll find our analysis useful.
A 2.6% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Spectris has some staying power. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Spectris paid out 35% of its profit as dividends. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Spectris’ cash payout ratio last year was 14%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It’s positive to see that Spectris’ dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
With a strong net cash balance, Spectris investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Spectris’ latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Spectris has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.2 in 2010, compared to UK£0.7 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 10% a year over that time.
It’s rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over 10 years and not had any notable cuts, but Spectris has done it, which we really like.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend’s purchasing power over the long term. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Spectris has grown its earnings per share at 10% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.
Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company’s dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. First, we like that the company’s dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. Spectris has met all of our criteria, including having strong cash flow that covers the dividend. We definitely think it would be worthwhile looking closer.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. As an example, we’ve identified 1 warning sign for Spectris that you should be aware of before investing.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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